ARKANSAS, Sept 15 (Future Headlines)- Climate activists worldwide are taking to the streets in more than 50 countries over a weekend of demonstrations, demanding that governments accelerate their efforts to phase out fossil fuels, the primary driver of global climate change. These protests come amid a year of devastating climate impacts, including record-breaking floods, wildfires, and droughts, resulting in mounting casualties and economic losses. Organizers have planned over 500 gatherings across 54 countries, anticipating a global turnout of more than a million people. If realized, this would make it the largest international climate protest since the pre-pandemic era when millions worldwide participated in the “school strike” movement spearheaded by Swedish activist Greta Thunberg.

  • The urgency of the climate crisis

The urgency of addressing climate change is at the forefront of these protests. In recent years, the world has witnessed a surge in extreme weather events, causing significant loss of life and destruction of property. These events, often linked to climate change, underscore the need for rapid and transformative action to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions. Climate activists argue that the fossil fuel industry’s continued operation is incompatible with achieving the necessary reductions in carbon emissions to avert catastrophic climate change.

Mitzi Jonelle Tan, a climate activist with the youth movement Fridays for Future in Manila, Philippines, emphasized that these protests are aimed at world leaders. She stated, “The fossil fuel industry’s time is up. We need a just transition, and we need to phase out the fossil fuels causing the destruction of our environment.”

  • Key demands of the protests

Protest organizers have outlined several key demands that they plan to communicate to governments worldwide. Activists are calling on governments to immediately halt subsidies for oil and gas, which totaled a record-high $7 trillion last year, according to an IMF analysis. In addition to ending subsidies, the protests will urge governments to cancel any plans for expanding fossil fuel production.

Demonstrators are pushing for a shift in energy priorities toward community-led renewable energy projects, particularly in regions where large populations lack access to electricity. Ahead of the U.N. COP28 climate summit, more than 80 countries are expected to advocate for a global agreement to gradually phase out coal, oil, and gas.

  • Challenges and opposition

While the burning of fossil fuels is widely recognized as the primary driver of climate change, achieving a consensus on phasing out these fuels in U.N. climate talks has proven elusive. Some governments heavily reliant on oil and gas revenues and those planning to use fossil fuel-based energy to improve living standards in impoverished communities are likely to resist these demands.

Furthermore, the pressure on wealthier nations to provide significant funding to support developing countries in transitioning to low-carbon energy sources is expected to intensify. While renewable energy is more cost-effective than fossil fuels in terms of operational expenses, substantial initial investments are required to establish infrastructure such as wind farms and solar panel installations. Despite having abundant solar energy resources, Africa has received only 2% of global investments in renewable energy over the last two decades, according to the International Renewable Energy Agency.

  • Protests on the global stage

One of the largest protests is expected in New York, where around 15,000 people are anticipated to participate. This demonstration coincides with the U.N. General Assembly, which gathers world leaders, and a “climate ambition summit” hosted next week. During these events, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to call on governments to enhance their plans for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

A recent U.N. report delivered a stark warning that the world is on a dangerous trajectory toward severe global warming. It emphasized the need for comprehensive action across all aspects of climate change, including a substantial reduction in coal-fired power generation by 2030. The report also urged a substantial increase in financial investments in developing countries to support both clean energy adoption and adaptation measures to address the escalating impacts of climate change.

The global climate protests underscore the growing demand for climate justice and immediate action to address the climate crisis. As the world grapples with increasingly frequent and severe climate-related disasters, citizens are urging their governments to prioritize the transition to clean energy and reduce reliance on fossil fuels. The protests also highlight the interconnectedness of climate change, socioeconomic disparities, and global cooperation, emphasizing the need for a unified response to one of humanity’s most pressing challenges. How governments respond to these calls for action will significantly shape the future trajectory of climate policy and environmental sustainability.

Reporting by Emad Martin